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PA OPINION

Unlocking the value of agile operations for healthcare associations

Healthcare associations currently provide services in the areas of quality, education, and health policy to their members. With the healthcare industry undergoing significant transformation driven by market consolidation, technology, new care models and regulations, we’re seeing associations continue to face the dual pressures of budgetary constraint and the demand of their members and customers to deliver more products and services. Similar to technology companies, associations are decoupling their members and consumers. That is, most members utilize the company’s services for a free or reduced fee because external parties (advertisers in Google’s case) are the customers.

Given the disruption across the industry, associations need to do more with less – whether it’s time, people or budget. We analysed publicly available financial information for a large group of healthcare associations and found that associations are facing increasing pressure on revenues and declining investment returns. With the pressure on to drive greater efficiency in operations, a move to agile operations can unlock the potential within their teams and unleash new levels of productivity.

Becoming an agile operation

For associations, agility means improving your market competitiveness by responding early and often to market changes, transforming ways of working by fostering the development of your people and creating a culture of continuous improvement by gathering and responding to regular feedback.

There are three key aspects that need be considered when designing and implementing an agile operation:

  • start small to allow the organization to scale up the transformation and minimize risk
  • design the agile business model to provide the backbone of how you operate as an organization
  • drive the culture change to maximize the potential from your workforce and enable new ways of working.

Can old dogs learn ingenious new tricks?

Find out more

Start small

Associations must start small and scale up as they transition to agile working. By starting small, they can iterate and gather feedback from employees while minimizing the impact and risk to day-to-day business operations. The agile ‘pilot’ could be a cumbersome business process, department that operates in a siloe or a specific team that works on the development of new products and services.

We recently worked with an association to redesign their education business to drive growth and innovation across their education product portfolio. We worked with key stakeholders to design an agile process which simplified the course revision process. As a result, the association now has the ability to update their training courses and take them to market in a more timely manner, helping them stay ahead of competitors and continue to respond to market changes.

Design the agile business model

When designing an agile business model, associations should organize their resources around the value the association delivers, such as an outcome for a customer. This ensures a common thread ties together all resources as they work to create value.

Agile operations are made up of multifunctional teams that work together to promote the sharing of knowledge, experience and skills. This harnesses a culture where associations can develop their talent and shift away from siloed ways of working which inhibits growth and innovation.

When working with a national dental association, we worked with key stakeholders to design the sales and marketing function around the value chain. As a result of our work, the association has implemented their selected operating model which will enable the delivery of non-dues revenue growth.

Drive the culture change

Once the agile model is implemented, senior leadership needs to sponsor the new ways of working to ensure the right supporting culture and behaviours are in place. A core part of adopting the right culture is to delegate decision making across all levels of the organization with minimum governance by senior leadership. Similarly, senior leaders can create a culture of continuous improvement by encouraging staff to suggest and implement internal improvements – and communicating and celebrating success with their team(s) to create momentum.

In 2018, we worked with the leadership team of an association to incorporate agile into their strategic roadmap and business plan. Many of the challenges we overcame focused on the sharing of resources across teams and the prioritization of strategic initiatives. Leaders agreed their current practices of focusing on only ‘their own kingdoms’ needed to change and they needed to work collectively to deliver the organization’s strategic objectives.

Conclusion

The rise of agile across the healthcare industry continues to create opportunities for associations to deliver productivity improvements and transform their culture and operations. We have outlined three key aspects that need to be considered when designing and implementing an agile operation.

The transition to an agile operating model requires a new way of thinking and leaders should take stock of their current business to assess how agile can be applied to their association, no matter how small scale.

Did you know the top 10% of financial performers are 30% more agile than the rest?

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Contact the authors

  • Nilesh Chandra

    Nilesh Chandra

    PA healthcare expert

    Nilesh is a leader in PA's healthcare business focused on helping provider industry clients develop new business models for an industry shifting towards value-based payments.

    Insights by Nilesh Chandra
  • Edward Wallace

    Edward Wallace

    PA healthcare expert

    Edward has experience working on major organisational design programmes with a focus on capability & people development

    Insights by Edward Wallace

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